We’re not kitten around—cats make great pets. But how much can you expect to spend as an owner? Take a look at these figures (and try not to get hissy about it).

By Sierra Burgos
August 24, 2020
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Alain Pham / Unsplash

No matter what phase you’re in—just starting your search, visiting shelters, or picking up your new feline friend—it’s always important to consider the cost of owning a cat. All pet owners should have funds set aside to provide the best possible life for their four-legged-friends. But just how much do you really need? Let's take a look:

Bringing Your Cat Home

During the first year of your cat’s life, you’ll shell out some extra dough to gather all the necessary supplies. These one-time costs include purchasing food and water bowls, a litter box, and a scratching post. Keep in mind they may need new ones in a few years if the old ones wear out quickly. “Although these figures can vary based on the type of pet you are bringing into your home, we estimate that the average pet owner spends $1,100–2,000 within the first year of owning a new pet,” Kelly DiCicco, Manager of Promotions for the ASPCA, says.

Luckily, the initial adoption fee or purchase price will only be included in your annual expenses once. Certain vaccinations, microchips, and spaying/neutering are also a one-time cost. You can breathe a sigh of relief knowing this first year of their life will probably be the most expensive.

Cost of Owning a Cat by Breed

It’s important to point out that some kitty breeds are more expensive than others. If you’re looking for a lower financial commitment, you may want to avoid certain breeds that are more known for medical issues and costly upkeep. The most expensive cat breeds include Savannahs, Bengals, and Persians. These breeds, while beautiful, tend to cost a prettier penny. Savannah cats typically have the highest price tag, but they’re generally healthy. Persian cats, on the other hand, can be purchased for as little as $500 but are prone to many health conditions that could add up over time.

On the most affordable list of cat breeds, you can find snowshoes, Maine coons, oriental shorthairs, and Siamese. Of course, a domestic (or mixed breed) cat will always be a more inexpensive option. In a lot of cases, seeking out a mixed breed from the pound saves you money—think cheaper adoption fees, vaccinations, and spay/neuter already taken care of.

Annual Expenses

The basic everyday expenses for a cat are food, water, and kitty litter—but a lot more goes into that cost, especially depending on your specific cat. Most cats are pretty low maintenance when it comes to grooming (they do the job themselves, after all!) but some may require extra care to keep their coat clean and shiny. Should your feline need professional grooming, it could cost an additional $300 a year.

The costs of keeping a clean litter box can add up fast, too. And you can’t always cut corners and go with the cheapest kitty litter—if your little buddy doesn’t like the smell or feel of their litter, they’ll happily do their business on your brand new bedspread or clean carpet. Cleaning up that mess could end up costing you more later, so always experiment with litters until your cat picks the one he likes best. *eyeroll*

Lifetime Expenses

After yearly expenses, you must think about the lifetime costs of owning a cat. This mostly depends on the overall health and wellness of your pet—are you prepared for the unexpected costs?

First, think about preventative care. You’ll need to get flea and tick prevention for your cat, as well as vaccinations to ensure they stay healthy and the vet bills don’t add up later on. You’ll also need to set aside some funds for the possibility of an emergency vet visit. The saying “curiosity killed the cat” is around for a reason—it’s possible they’ll get into things they shouldn’t. An unforeseen medical intervention like emergency operations can cost thousands. Even when you’re prepared with pet insurance, you’ll be paying hundreds a year to keep that coverage in the event of an accident.

Don’t forget to throw life events into the mix. What happens in the event of a move? Will you need to pay a pet deposit or cleaning fee in your new place? You’ll also have to be prepared with boarding or cat-sitting options anytime you aren’t home, and those can add up fast.

For a closer look at the numbers, we gathered the average costs of owning a cat and predicted the lifetime cost. The following expenses are based on data from Money and Petfinder.

Expense

First Year Cost

Following Years Cost

Adoption or purchase fee

$30-$400

$0

Food

$120-$500

$120-$500

Treats

$15-$100

$15-100

Food and water bowls

$10-$30

$0-$20

Toys and scratching post

$20-$100

$0-$75

Cat bed

$20-$100

$0-$100

Litter box

$10-100

$0-100

Litter

$70-$150

$70-$150

Carrier

$40-$75

$0-$75

Preventative medicines

$20-$200

$20-$200

Routine vet care

$100-$500

$100-$300

Emergency vet care/Pet insurance

$0-$450

$0-$800

Cat sitters or boarding

$100-$300

$100-$300

Pet deposit (apartment)

$0-$400

$0-$400

Average monthly cost

$46-$284

$35-$260

Average yearly cost

$555-$3,405

$425-$3,120

Average lifetime cost

$4,250-$31,200

 

Budgeting for a Cat

Becoming a cat parent doesn’t have to break the bank. There are multiple ways to cut costs without cutting quality of life, for you or your feline friend.

Start out by looking into adoption—you’ll save on the initial cost with the added benefit of saving an animal in need. In some cases, shelters will even help cover the costs of vaccinations and spaying/neutering.

“Save the price of a visit to your groomer with regular nail-trimmings and brushings. It’s good for your pet, it will reduce the amount of hair floating around your home, and your cats will have fewer hairballs,” DiCicco says.

Keep things basic. Purchase a simple cat brush or comb for basic brushings, and don’t go crazy on a fancy collar. Look up DIY tutorials on making cat toys or a scratching post, and frequent yard sales to keep an eye out for gently used supplies.

“Financial circumstances alone are not reliable indicators of the capacity to love and care for a companion animal,” DiCicco says. “Pet owners who are financially advantaged do not love their pets any more or less than those in different financial situations. Outside of financial costs and consideration for your lifestyle, all pets, whether you are bringing home a large dog or a tiny kitten, require love and proper care.” The costs of owning a cat can add up, but budgeting in advance can certainly help prepare you (and your kitty) for a long lifetime of love.